With Antidisturbios, the Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, to whom we owe Que Dios Nos Perdone, El Reino and Madre, signs here with his co-screenwriter Isabel Peña, his first TV series. How did he shape this shock series? Interview.
Broadcast on Canal + and MyCanal, Antidisturbios is a shocking mini-series that paints an uncompromising portrait of a riot police squad. In the sights of an internal affairs investigation after a man dies in an eviction gone awry, they literally collapse.
Rodrigo Sorogoyen explains, in French, what motivated him to tell this powerful story.
AlloCiné: How did you get the idea of making Antidisturbios?
Rodrigo Sorogoyen: It’s an idea that goes back. In the first version of the script for the film Que Dios Nos Perdone, one of the two characters was a riot police officer. And finally we dropped this idea because it no longer fit into the survey. But it was clear to Isabel (Peña, editor’s note) and me that it is a figure of society that fascinates us. Violence is part of their daily life. We fear them. In Spain, as in many countries, riot police are considered to be the armed wing of power.
He is a very interesting figure for us because basically they are workers. They are suffering, they are not making a lot of money, they are working very hard, but they are “on the other side”. They have a very unpleasant job but also unfortunately necessary for the company. And we wonder how they do when they return home, when they find a wife and children, how they educate them. So we started talking to them and trying to understand this branch of the police.
We have seen, like you in Paris and other countries, many violent images of riot police hitting helpless people. So he’s not a lovable figure in the eyes of society. And whenever there is something unpleasant for society, one wonders how Isabel and I live.
When Antidisturbios was broadcast in Spain, it was often written that it was the events around the 2017 referendum on the independence of Catalonia that gave you the idea to make the series …
Yes, these are images that have circulated a lot, but before that, with the Indignant Movement, there were a lot of images and horrible situations in downtown Madrid. I remember perfectly the images that circulated on YouTube and which marked me a lot. We saw a policeman hitting a man without restraint and I wonder how he does afterwards when he returns home. Does he sleep peacefully? Does he regret? Or does he completely forget his work when he is at home? All that fascinates us and that’s why we made the series.
The series talks about violence in general and police violence in particular. But why did you specifically choose riot police?
It is the least known in fiction and it is the most intimidating. And for me, they are the ones who have the hardest job in the police, they are not very well regarded. They are like soldiers, the ones who have the least value.
Antidisturbios on Canal +: what is this shocking series on police violence worth?
What does Antidisturbios denounce?
I do not know if we denounce anything. Our goal is to show. To show in order to understand, to talk about things that we don’t normally talk about. In Spain, there has never been any fiction about riot police. On the police, a lot yes, obviously. Even too. But not on riot control.
What we want is to show reality, in the best possible way, and which is also entertaining. And why do we want to tell this? Precisely because we don’t talk about it. I will never do a series whose subject has already been covered a thousand times. I want to tell a theme, a subject so that we understand it better. I don’t want to denounce police violence. I don’t want to defend the police. I want to tell the white and the black of a character, a subject, a collective. This is our goal.
Why a series rather than a film?
There are two reasons. In Spain, unfortunately, it’s very difficult to make a film. And it’s a lot easier to do a series. We had never done it before. It’s a totally new format for us. It was a real challenge and therefore it was interesting.
It allowed us to tell our story over five hours. My films are always too long for the producers. (laughs) And I’m interested as a filmmaker and screenwriter to be able to tell a longer story. There are stories you can tell in 90 minutes, others in 120 minutes. There are stories that need to be told in movie theaters. And there are stories about the future of society that need to be told in several chapters.
I hate when TV shows – and 90% of them are – could be shorter. At the beginning, we planned to do Antidisturbios over eight episodes. In the end, she has six. If we do too much, we put things that do not interest the viewer. And I hate it, it’s a horrible waste of time.
You shoot with a very mobile camera, very close to the action. Can you elaborate on your choices on how to film?
I had a lot of fun filming Antidisturbios and that motivates me to do another series. The production evolves over the episodes. In episode 1, I use wide angles with the camera on my shoulder, very close to the characters. This is the most aggressive I have ever done. I wanted Episode 1 to feel like a documentary, I wanted the viewer to feel like a riot cop, to be with them.
With each episode, the camera moves away a little more and the optics are a little more closed. For me, the goal is to watch the series without realizing it. But if you watch Episode 1 and Episode 6, it looks like two totally different series.
That is to say ?
I knew that one of the show’s handicaps would be prejudice. The riot cop is a very controversial figure. A part of society expects a very harsh representation of these police officers, that their violence is denounced and that they are treated as antagonists. And if we had done that, another part of society – the one that is more to the right in Spain – would have denounced us by saying “People on the left, who make films, attack the police all the time, etc. “
So I tried to minimize it all. I didn’t want to fuel either prejudice. First I wanted the viewer to be a riot cop in episode 1. And with each episode, they get farther and farther away. Arrived at episode 6, he is no longer a riot police officer but a viewer. And at that moment, he is able to judge, to form his own opinion. It’s easier to get an idea when you have lived the experience of these police officers.
The opening scene is very impressive. Tell us about this choice.
It is a declaration of intent. When we started writing the series, we knew that Laia (Vicky Luengo) was not going to be as important as the police in the eyes of viewers. But for us, Laia is the protagonist of the series. This is why with each episode, it takes more and more importance. And at the end, we can say to ourselves: “Shit, the series, it can be called Laia!”
For us, it was a lot of fun opening the show with this scene with Laia as a family. And, that serves the purpose. This scene allows to define the character already in his way of playing with his family. It’s a very powerful start to the series because you come to see a series that is about violence, action and you come across a scene that is the opposite. But there is violence in this scene. And also, she talks about this character, about her way of believing in justice, of not putting up with cheating. And it was a nice way for us to present this character who will become more and more important.
Interview by Emilie Semiramoth on May 12, 2021